Curry lights up Grizzlies for 38 in splashy return
OAKLAND, Calif. — Stephen Curry didn’t just return to the NBA on Saturday night.
He returned to the top of its charts.
Shooting as accurately as ever despite an 11-game absence, Curry established an NBA season-high with 10 3-pointers during a 38-point explosion that guided the Golden State Warriors to a 141-128 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Curry, who suffered a sprained right ankle in a game against New Orleans on Dec. 4, connected on 13 of his 17 shots overall and 10 of 13 from beyond the arc in helping the Warriors equal their second-highest point total of the season.
“I was excited. Felt like the first day of school again,” Curry said after his NBA-best ninth game with 10 or more 3-pointers in his career. “When I woke up this morning, I knew I was going to play basketball. That’s a great feeling to have.”
Golden State was playing its second home game in two nights, having been held to 100 points in an 11-point loss to Charlotte without Curry on Friday.
The Warriors capped an 11-day, seven-game homestand with a fifth win. The span began with a 97-84 win over the same Grizzlies on Dec. 20.
“They played amazingly,” Curry said of the Warriors in his absence, during which the team went 9-2. “They did it in a different way.”
Memphis, coming off a 109-99 road win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, lost for the 13th time in 17 games since firing coach David Fizdale on Nov. 27.
The league’s 29th-ranked offensive club lost despite scoring 13 more points than it had in any other game this season. The Grizzlies actually outshot the Warriors 71.4 percent to 54.5 on 3-pointers and connected on 52.1 percent overall.
“When you have that group of talent over there, when they’re all on like they were tonight, they’re tough to deal with.”
Curry, who watched the Warriors average just 106.9 points per game in his absence, hit a layup off a Draymond Green assist in his second minute back and bombed in a 3-pointer 35 seconds later, giving the Warriors a 10-0 lead just 2:08 into the game.
He hit four 3’s in each of the second and third quarters to equal Damian Lillard’s previous NBA season-high of nine, then returned to the game briefly in the fourth quarter to add a 10th.
“Most guys, you would say when they come back, they might struggle,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Curry, whose 38 points were one shy of his season-high. “You don’t say that about Steph.”
Klay Thompson had 21 points and Kevin Durant 20 for the Warriors, who won despite the second-quarter ejection of Draymond Green, who drew a pair of technical fouls for disputing foul calls 47 seconds apart. The ejection was his second of the season.
Center Zaza Pachulia made all six of his shots and all five of his free throws in a 17-point, eight-rebound, six-assist outing for Golden State, which matched its franchise record with a 13th win in December.
“I thought Zaza was terrific,” Kerr said. “It was too bad that Steph stole his night.”
The Warriors shot 58.8 percent for the game and connected on 18 of their 33 3-point attempts.
Marc Gasol had 27 points to lead six players in double figures for the Grizzlies, who fell to 1-2 on their current five-game trip.
Tyreke Evans (22 points), Kobi Simmons (season-best 17), James Ennis (13), JaMychal Green (12) and Deyonta Davis (10) also scored in double figures for the Grizzlies, who made 15 of their 21 3-point attempts.
“We’re trying to build something here,” Gasol said. “If we’re trying to be a really good team, we have to play better defense.”
It took one of the Grizzlies’ best quarters of the year — 38 points on 65.2 percent shooting — to hang with the Warriors for one period, with Golden State able to take just a two-point advantage despite putting up 40 points of their own.
But eventually the firepower of the league’s highest-scoring team wore down the visitors.
Curry had 21 points in the first half, including four 3-pointers in the second quarter alone as the Warriors ran off to as much as a 13-point lead during a 78-point half.
NOTES: The Warriors improved to 8-0 following a loss this season. ... Golden State recorded an 83-19 record (counting playoff games) in calendar year 2017. ... Warriors PF Draymond Green took over the league lead in technical fouls with 10. His two ejections are one off teammate SF Kevin Durant’s league lead with three. ... The 78 points allowed by the Grizzlies in the first half were their most in a half since the Warriors also had 78 in March of 2010. ... The Warriors’ offensive output went down 10.5 percent (119.4 PPG to 106.9) during PG Stephen Curry’s 11-game absence, while their defensive allowance improved 5.4 percent (105.7 to 100.0). ... The Grizzlies played a 23rd straight game without standout PG Mike Conley (Achilles soreness). They fell to 4-19 in those games and to 55-97 (.362) when Conley has been out of the lineup in his career.